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Celebrating India globally: MIT India Conference to build on ‘Startup India’ initiative

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Startup India
Image source: huffingtonpost.in

Washington: Celebrating India’s achievements, the MIT India Conference will focus on how to create a thriving startup ecosystem in India to put Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Startup India” initiative into action.

Organized by the MIT Sloan School of Management in collaboration with the greater MIT community in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 3, the conference plans to address all levels of entrepreneurship, according to a media release.

These include from scaling startups and addressing the challenges early startups face to social endeavours and sustainability.

With the “Startup India” initiative receiving a five-fold increase in its funding along with government plans to open new startup incubators, the objective becomes how best to sustain and build off of this momentum, it said.

This year’s conference will also feature a showcase of innovative projects being developed by MIT students and researchers with potential application for India.

The MIT India Conference aims to celebrate the achievements of India globally, as well as discuss future collaborations between India and the world that could help accelerate innovation into the future. The MIT-India conference has established itself as an important forum for leaders in industry, academia, and policy to discuss current issues and future innovations in the context of India, in the region and abroad, the release said.

Slated speakers and panellists include Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India; Mukesh Aghi, President, US-India Business Council; Gururaj Deshpande, Founder-Chairman, Sycamore Networks and Ashish Hemrajani, Founder-CEO, BookMyShow.com.

Others include Sorin Grama, Founder-CTO, Promethean Power Systems; Nishant Rao, COO, Freshdesk; Vivek Prabhakar, Founder-CEO, Chumbak; Anuradha Acharya, Founder-CEO, MapMyGenome India; Akash Bhatia: Founder-CEO, Infinite Analytics; Venkat Maroju, CEO, SourceTrace Systems; Anjana Reddy, MD, Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd and Zenobia Moochhala, Co-Founder, Care.com. (Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Californian Couple Develops A Way That Allows To Make Water From Air

Doss-Hertz prepared to leave for a photo shoot and a visitor sampled a glass of their freshly made water.

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The Skysource/Skywater Alliance co-founders David Hertz, right, and his wife Laura Doss-Hertz demonstrate how the Skywater 300 turns air into water, in Los Angeles. VOA

It started out modestly enough: David Hertz, having learned that under the right conditions you really can make your own water out of thin air, put a little contraption on the roof of his California office and began cranking out free bottles of H2O for anyone who wanted one.

Soon he and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz, were thinking bigger — so much so that this week the couple won the $1.5 million XPrize For Water Abundance. They prevailed by developing a system that uses shipping containers, wood chips and other detritus to produce as much as 528 gallons (2,000 liters) of water a day at a cost of no more than 2 cents a quart (1 liter).

The XPrize competition, created by a group of philanthropists, entrepreneurs and others, has awarded more than $140 million over the years for what it calls audacious, futuristic ideas aimed at protecting and improving the planet. The first XPrize, for $10 million, went to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aviation pioneer Burt Rutan in 2004 for SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed manned space flight.

When Hertz learned a couple of years ago that a prize was about to be offered to whoever could come up with a cheap, innovative way to produce clean freshwater for a world that doesn’t have enough of it, he decided to go all in.

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA, water
A boy runs past a dispenser containing water mixed with disinfectant, east of Mbandaka, DRC. VOA

At the time, his little water-making machine was cranking out 150 gallons a day, much of which was being given to homeless people living in and around the alley behind the Studio of Environmental Architecture, Hertz’s Venice Beach-area firm that specializes in creating green buildings.

He and his wife, a commercial photographer, and their partner Richard Groden, who created the smaller machine, assembled The Skysource/Skywater Alliance and went to work. They settled on creating little rainstorms inside shipping containers by heating up wood chips to produce the temperature and humidity needed to draw water from the air and the wood itself.

“One of the fascinating things about shipping containers is that more are imported than exported, so there’s generally a surplus,” said Hertz, adding they’re cheap and easy to move around.

And if there’s no wood chips around for heat, coconut husks, rice, walnut shells, grass clippings or just about any other such waste product will do just fine.

“Certainly in regions where you have a lot of biomass, this is going to be a very simple technology to deploy,” said Matthew Stuber, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut and expert on water systems who was one of the panel’s judges.

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The XPrize trophy is seen at The Skysource/Skywater Alliance offices in Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2018. VOA

He called their water-making machine a “really cool” merging of rather simple technologies that can be used to quickly deliver water to regions hit by natural disasters or stricken by drought, or even rural areas with a shortage of clean water.

Hertz and Doss-Hertz are just starting to contemplate how to accomplish that.

Theirs was among 98 teams from 27 countries who entered the competition. Many teams were bigger and better funded, while the couple mortgaged their Malibu home to stay in the game. At one point, they were told they hadn’t made the final round of five, but one team dropped out and they were back in.

“If you say we were the dark horse in the race, we weren’t even in the race,” Hertz recalled, smiling.

Also Read: Dusshera In Delhi Casts A Dark Blanket, Air Quality Worsens

He stood near a giant copy of the check in his office while Doss-Hertz prepared to leave for a photo shoot and a visitor sampled a glass of their freshly made water.

Now, though, they are in for the long, wet haul.

“There’s no restrictions whatsoever on how it’s used,” Hertz said of the prize money. “But Laura and I have committed to using it all for the development and deployment of these machines, to get them to people who need the water most. (VOA)